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House of Commons

Monday 28 January 2008

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Local Film Festivals

1. Janet Anderson (Rossendale and Darwen) (Lab): What funding is available for local film festivals in 2007-08. [182022]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): Film festivals are an important part of building an audience for film throughout the UK, and more than £1.6 million has already been spent on local film festivals in 2007-08. In addition, the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), announced in November that the UK Film Council would make a further £4.5 million available for national film festivals and regional festivals with national significance.

Janet Anderson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, and I congratulate him on taking up his new post: we wish him well. I urge him to look at the website www.bacupfilmfestival.co.uk, to see for himself the success of the first Bacup film festival of last year. We want to build on that and expand the festival this year, in order to enhance the cultural life of the Rossendale valley. May I urge him to look at the funding for such small film festivals? I hope that he will be able to assist us.

Andy Burnham: I thank my hon. Friend for her question. It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing film policy together in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and I knew my luck was in when I saw that she had the first question today, because I could not think of a friendlier face to give me a gentler introduction to my new post.

I saw first-hand my hon. Friend’s work in setting up the Film Council, and she should take great pride in the British film industry’s success since the time she was a DCMS Minister. She is now doing the same for Bacup. I wish her well in that role, and I will certainly want to visit—I have been told that my new job is good for getting the hottest tickets, and I cannot think of better tickets than a couple on the front row at the Bacup film festival this year.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post. There are plans for a film festival in my constituency, and I hope that there will be enough funding to go round. May I emphasise that it is essential that funding in the creative industries, particularly film, goes to the regions, especially as ITV is currently pulling back from regional news and investment? Therefore, any extra money that goes into film and television in the regions is important.

Andy Burnham: I entirely agree. As I mentioned in my previous answer, we have made money available over three years to support film festivals in all parts of the country. The hon. Gentleman will know that last year’s summer of British film, where funding was made available to support the use of digital screens, was another great success. In a changing broadcasting world, where there is lots of global content, regional and local programming is increasingly important to people in the UK.

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Sport (Girls)

2. Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): What progress has been made on increasing the number of girls participating in sport. [182023]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The annual school sport survey shows that, although the disparity in participation in sport between girls’ schools and boys’ schools is narrowing, there remains a need to reduce the gap further. Key to achieving that is to provide further sporting opportunities that respond better to girls’ needs and abilities. That is why we are investing an additional £100 million to offer physical education and sport to all pupils aged from five to 16, and three hours for those aged 16 to 19.

Lorely Burt: I welcome the progress the Minister is making in this area, but does he not share my concern that 1 million children still do not participate in two hours of sport a week? The Government’s own most recent figures show that they are failing to meet targets to increase the number of women participating in sport. Will the Minister explain what steps the Government are taking to ensure that activities that young girls want to participate in, such as dance, where demand outstrips supply—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I cannot see how 86 per cent. can be a failure, so we are clearly doing very well on school participation, but we want to do more, especially with girls. We must be careful that girls are not stereotyped by participating in certain sports: instead, we have to broaden the offer. We are doing that by, for instance, working with the Youth Sport Trust, and looking at whether we can introduce dance and creativity. I wonder whether the hon. Lady saw the news today that Kelly Holmes is looking at steps such as the wearing of loose-fitting clothes as opposed to tight PE skirts, to make people feel better about themselves and get more involved in sport.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley) (Lab): I join other Members in welcoming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to his new role; he is a great choice for the job. On the issue of girls’ and women’s participation in sport, it is understood that there is a bias in national funding, from the top to the bottom, in favour of sports played by men and boys, and that needs to be looked into. Members of the national women’s football team do not even receive salaries; they have to do other jobs. That is not an encouragement to girls. Will the new Secretary of State make it a priority to address that imbalance in funding from the top right down to the grass roots, which are so important?

Mr. Sutcliffe: This is an important point. We have been trying to ensure that the fastest increase is among girls playing football, and to ensure, through the Football Association, that we have an elite league and investment in women’s football. As I said earlier, through the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, we are trying to ensure that we stop any imbalance and promote opportunities for girls and women. A dance review is taking place, so the future looks good, but we must ensure that we get to those hard-to-reach groups.

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Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): Will the Minister agree to meet his Home Office colleagues to discuss the need to increase participation in sport of girls and boys in our young offender prison estate, where the provision of sport for young people is still far too low?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I heartily agree, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. He will know that one of my previous roles was in the Home Office, dealing with young offenders. The busiest place in a young offender institution—and, indeed, a prison—is the gym, and we must try to channel that activity into sport. I believe that there is a great role for sport to play in helping support offenders and in getting them away from offending.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): There is only one sport in which girls and boys participate equally in England and Wales—swimming. However, Paris has more 50 m swimming pools than England and Wales put together. That is partly because it is very expensive for local authorities to build and maintain swimming pools. Will the Government consider building more 50 m pools and making sure that funding comes from central Government, rather than local government?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I think that my hon. Friend has been speaking to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) about 50 m pools. We clearly need to see investment in sports infrastructure, and we are proud of our record over the past 10 years. It is important that local authorities play their part. We want them to have facility strategies, so that they can work out what is required in their areas. We hope that the sports partnerships can help them to build more pools, if that is what is required.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): May I start by welcoming the new Secretary of State to his post? The two greatest barriers to increasing female participation in sport are a reluctance among girls to take part in the conventional school sport offer, and an appalling post-school drop-out rate. Given the Government’s reorganisation of Sport England, will the Minister be absolutely clear about whether the responsibility for increasing the number of girls doing dance, yoga and the like lies with Sport England, or has been transferred to the Department of Health?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Increasing participation is a target across government, but what is important is that we make sure that all Government Departments can contribute. On participation, we are working very closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and with the Department of Health to make sure that there are no gaps for people to fall through. However, the question of where the responsibility will lie depends on the outcome of the Sport England review, which we hope will take place toward the end of February. The review will doubtless make sure that we do not let girls and hard-to-target groups fall through such gaps.

Commonwealth Games (Glasgow)

3. Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): What progress has been made in his Department’s work with the organising company and the Scottish Executive on providing support for the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow. [182024]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): We are committed to working with the organising company and all the key partners to ensure a successful Commonwealth games in Glasgow that can be enjoyed by the whole of the UK.

Ann McKechin: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and I hope that he will take the opportunity to visit Glasgow in the near future, and to see the benefits of the new facility provided by Glasgow city council. However, does he agree that the somewhat churlish attitude adopted by the nationalists in opposing the Olympics is counter-productive? The interest in sport that will be generated by the Olympics, and the knowledge and experience that we will gain from it, will be of direct benefit to Glasgow and to the games.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments. I note that not many Scottish Nationalists are in their seats this afternoon to talk about this important sporting issue. As the UK Minister with responsibility for sport, I am concerned that we have the unified voice that we need in promoting sport. The Commonwealth games will benefit the whole of the UK, and UK Sport contributes to the success of athletes, particularly Scottish athletes. We must make sure that there is no narrow nationalist line affecting sport’s ability to unite all our nations.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): As a London Member, may I welcome Glasgow’s getting the Commonwealth games, which is every bit as much a national games as the Olympics in 2012? However, what plans are afoot to ensure that there is a specific national lottery game for the Glasgow Commonwealth games before 2012, as well as in the two-year period up to Commonwealth games?

Mr. Sutcliffe: The commissioning of new games is a matter for the National Lottery Commission. If such a game is needed, I am sure that discussions will be held about that. Clearly, we will want to work with the organising company when it is set up—it is in its early stages—and these are the sorts of issues that we will discuss.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the focus on the 2012 Olympics means there is a challenge in promoting the 2014 Glasgow games throughout the UK? Will he hold early discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government to promote across Wales the excellent prospect of a Commonwealth games in Glasgow?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Again, I would be happy to do that. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work on all things sporting, not least his prowess on the football pitch for the parliamentary football team. He makes an important point. I shall have regular meetings with the Welsh sports Minister and the Scottish Executive sports Minister to ensure that we co-ordinate our response to the benefit of both the Olympic and Commonwealth games.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Members on both sides of the House have rightly emphasised the importance of the legacy of the Olympic games. Will
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there be a legacy of the Commonwealth games? What will Glaswegians benefit from after those excellent games in 2014 have ended?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I hope that Glaswegians benefit from the inspiration of sport—it can help people’s health and education. We are looking forward to a decade of sport. This is not just about the London Olympics in 2012 and the Commonwealth games in 2014, because from next year a major sporting event will be held in the UK every year. I hope that we can unite to ensure that all our different spheres benefit from making sport successful.

Portable Antiquities Scheme

5. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): If he will make a statement on the future funding and management of the portable antiquities scheme. [182026]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): The portable antiquities scheme is funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. In recognition of the scheme’s importance, the MLA intends to maintain current funding for the next financial year while it undertakes a review, with the British Council and other stakeholders.

Tim Loughton: I know that the Minister is aware of the excellent work of the portable antiquities scheme—it has recorded more than 314,000 finds on its database and its website received 82 million hits last year. It is probably one of the few successful Government databases to date. She will also be aware of the concerns expressed in my early-day motion, which has been signed by 161 Members, from all parties. Does she realise that the MLA’s proposal to freeze the funding will result in the loss of five front-line, important jobs? Is it not time to transfer the direct responsibility for the PAS to the British Museum, which has been running the scheme successfully and is best placed to promote and expand it in the best interests of promoting culture in this country? The British Museum has had such success in promoting culture through the PAS.

Margaret Hodge: First, I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks about the success of the scheme—we all think it is an incredibly successful scheme. Of course, it is another mark-up for a Labour Government, because we introduced it in 1997. Secondly, rumours abound about a loss of staff, but that has not been approved by anybody and is a matter for the scheme itself. It has received not only a bit of inflationary funding from the MLA, but extra funding from the British Museum, so I am unsure why those running the scheme feel the need to make a cut.

In a tight fiscal environment, we want to see how we can best maintain and grow the scheme and where the best synergies lie. That could be with the British Museum, through the renaissance in the regions programme or by the scheme’s remaining in the MLA. Those are the options that will be examined by the British Museum and all other stakeholders during the review.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The House will be familiar with the reign of the late third century Roman emperor of Britain, Carausius, who was overthrown in a coup d’état by his finance
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Minister—no change there, then. Two very valuable golden coins from his reign were recently unearthed by an east midlands farmer and they have joined the 330,000 discoveries in the portable antiquities scheme collection. Will the Minister reassure the House that incentives will be given for future finds of that kind to go to the PAS, because otherwise for lack of finance such finds will not be interpreted and the British public will not be able to identify with their past of two millenniums ago?

Margaret Hodge: I would love to see the coins to which my hon. Friend refers. I have been privileged to see a number of the finds for which the scheme has been responsible. We know how successful the scheme has been, because in 2006, the last year for which figures are available, 97 per cent. of the finds by members of the public came through funds liaison officers, who work on that scheme.

The scheme is in a good place. Confirmation of the continuation of the MLA’s funding of the scheme, at a time when its own funding has been quite severely constrained, demonstrates the general regard in which the scheme is held. I have no doubt that all those working on the review will try to ensure that the scheme is maintained over time.

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): I encourage the Minister, in her constant battle with the Treasury, to ensure that the scheme is expanded rather than frozen. It is one of the great success stories in the world of archaeology and my county archaeologist told me only this morning that in Wiltshire alone—which has the world heritage site of Stonehenge and Avebury—more than 20 Roman sites a year are being identified. Relations with metal detectorists, which have been bad for years, are suddenly coming good, and that is to the benefit of the whole of archaeology.

Margaret Hodge: I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have very good relationships with the Treasury, not least because we have an ex-Chief Secretary as our Secretary of State. We achieved a good settlement in tight fiscal circumstances for the whole of the DCMS budget. I have no doubt that the scheme will continue in good health, but a review is sensible, to discover whether any good synergies will emerge from relocation. That could save money at the back end so that more can be spent on front-line services.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): When something is working, is it not a good idea to leave it alone? Could the Secretary of State not be persuaded to understand that before this scheme was working efficiently, many archaeological finds were lost to the United Kingdom and even to museums in general? Would it not be more sensible simply to accept that far from putting the scheme into the freezer while we consider whether it is successful, we should give it more money and encouragement, especially as—for once—we have managed to get something working efficiently?

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